I’ve decided that Michelle Obama is on the top of my list of people I’d like to sit next to on an airplane. Chris Hadfield is also on that list, and Barack Obama as well–although Michelle comes out on top. I’d obviously heard about Michelle Obama’s book Becoming (2018) when it first came out, but it took me awhile to get around to it. I already had a long reading list, and I do tend to avoid political books. I picked up this one because Obama is so likable, and I knew just enough about her life to be intrigued.
And I loved Becoming. I came out of it with a better idea of Obama’s life, her career, the work she did at the White House, and the way she views the world. I found her book relatable, inspiring, interesting, and optimistic. It was written well, with clear explanations and themes, but it was Obama’s personality and her unique experiences that made this book so good.
Obama begins at the beginning, with her childhood and growing up on the South side of Chicago. Her parents rented the upper story of her great aunt’s house, where she lived along with her older brother. I’ve read a lot of autobiographies by women, and they’ve all been really good. However, they almost always contain harrowing stories of neglect, abuse, rape, and other traumas that the author managed to persevere through. These stories are enlightening and inspiring, but they now have me expecting the worst. I didn’t realize how tense I was until Obama safely made it to adulthood, and I could let out a sigh of relief. Obama didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but she had a stable, loving home with parents who were good role models and ensured that she and her brother had opportunities and a good education. If only all children could be so lucky.
I perhaps related most to Obama during her time at college and law school. She was driven, and worked hard to succeed. It sounds like she went to law school because it was yet another checkbox of success. And like me, she decided that the law may not be her calling. So, she moved on to jobs that involved working with the community. I thought Obama was incredibly brave to give up her safe, law firm job and go after something with much less security and direction. It was a learning experience to see Obama go into job interviews confidently requesting her required salary and negotiating flexibility so she could take care of her girls. I’m usually just happy to get hired at all, and any kind of salary is a bonus.
I enjoyed reading about Barack Obama through Michelle’s eyes. I am even more impressed with him now. The story of them meeting and their subsequent relationship is interesting and sweet. And when Barack decided to get into politics, I could relate to Michelle’s disinterest in the whole thing. I admired Obama’s honesty about the stress in their marriage when their kids were young and how therapy helped them.
Finally, Obama discusses what it was like to move into the White House for eight years and live with the constant scrutiny of the public as well as the secret service following your every move. I’m pretty sure that would be my worst nightmare, but Obama handled it with strength and grace–focusing on what she could do to help others and make sure her girls had a semi-normal life.
Michelle Obama is a unique combination of a relatable everywoman and a superstar. I kept thinking I could be friends with her, and then I would remember that I am not Beyonce. Highly recommended.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.